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TWitM: Omaha bullpen shutting everyone out

This Week in the Minors: Most of the Chasers ‘pen is on a shutout streak, McBroom and Melendez lead their leagues in homers, POTW honors for Michael Massey, a record for Tyler Tolbert and the Fireflies

Jace Vines is one of many Omaha relievers on a roll these days.
Minda Haas Kuhlmann

‘This Week in the Minors’ is our weekly look at notable performances from all over the system, from big-name prospects and less heralded guys alike. The mission is to answer this simple question: “Who had a good week?”

Today, we’ll cover results from Tuesday, July 6 through Sunday, July 11.

AAA Omaha Storm Chasers (37-21)

schedule | roster

The Storm Chasers hosted the second-place Toledo Mud Hens (DET) this week, and created a 5-game gap between the two teams atop the standings by winning 3 out of 5. One game was washed out by Friday night and Saturday afternoon’s destructive storms.

Two of the wins came by way of walkoff home run - one in the 10th from outfielder Anderson Miller, and one courtesy of rehabbing Royals catcher Cam Gallagher.

Shortstop Lucius Fox returned from injury this week. Utilityman Travis Jones picked up his first Triple-A hits on Thursday.

Ryan McBroom is still the Triple-A East home run leader, launching a 3-run bomb to tie things up in the 9th on Tuesday, to set up the Miller walkoff. In 56 games since being moved down to Omaha, McBroom is slashing .272/.349/.554.

Outfielder Edward Olivares went 6-for-20 with a pair of dingers in this five-game stretch since his most recent trip between Kansas City and Omaha.

Reliever Dylan Coleman made his Triple-A debut Thursday and pitched again on Sunday, totaling 2.1 innings, with 5 strikeouts, no walks, no runs, and just one single allowed.

Basically every Omaha reliever is killing it lately:

  • Domingo Tapia hasn’t allowed a run or an extra-base hit in his last 7 games, dating back to June 18. He has struck out 10 and walked 5 in that time, a total of 10 innings. The 29-year-old righty has pitched in the Majors a little bit, with the Mariners and Red Sox.
  • RHP Jace Vines is on a 4-game shutout streak, with six strikeouts and one walk in 8 innings. He too has limited opponents to just singles in that time.
  • Tyler Zuber is on a 5-game shutout streak, allowing just two hits in 4.1 innings. He has struck out 7 and walked 3.
  • Righty Jake Newberry has gone five game since his last run allowed, a total of 5.1 innings. In that time he has struck out seven, walked one, and allowed six hits - all singles.
  • Right-hander Grant Gavin has also blanked opponents in his last three appearances.

AA Northwest Arkansas Naturals (31-27)

schedule | roster

Thanks to a 4-2 series against first-place Wichita Wind Surge (MIN), the Naturals find themselves just one game out of first. Two other teams are in the mix too - Arkansas and Tulsa are each tied at 0.5 GB. The division could go to any of those four teams at this point.

By far the best game from any pitcher this week was Drew Parrish, who struck out 9 in 7 shutout innings. He allowed only two singles and zero walks, which all adds up to a Game Score of 82 per Baseball-Reference.

The home run race with Northwest Arkansas big 3 hitters got a compelling new twist this week: with Bobby Witt, Jr. and Nick Pratto’s week abbreviated by their participation in the Futures Game, MJ Melendez pulled ahead into sole possession of the top spot in the league by adding a pair of homers.

Outfielder Dairon Blanco swung a hot bat this week, with 11 hits that included a double and two home runs. While he was on the bases, he also went 4-for-5 in stolen base attempts. Blanco’s 22 steals leads the league.

Also piling up double-digit hits this week was second baseman Clay Dungan, who went 10-for-27. Catcher Freddy Fermin drove in 8 runs this week, aided by a pair of homers and two doubles.

Adv-A Quad Cities River Bandits (38-20)

schedule | roster

The River Bandits split a series against the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (MIL) and maintain a 5-game lead in the division. The second place Cedar Rapids Kernels (MIN) have won 7 straight to make a 3-game gain since this time last week.

Second baseman Michael Massey went 10-for-24 this week and drove in 10 runs. Among those hits were tons of extra bases: 3 doubles, a triple, and two homers. For his efforts, he was named High-A Central Player of the Week.

Right fielder Seuly Matias resumed his rehab from a broken finger down in Arizona this week, going 4-for-10 with 4 strikeouts and 4 walks.

Righty Christian Cosby was called upon to start for the first time since June of 2019, and gave the team five shutout innings with just one hit allowed. He struck out one and walked two, and threw just 58 pitches.

A.J. Block picked up his 2nd W in a row with his start this week, allowing just one run on two hits, with 6 strikeouts and 2 walks.

Out of the ‘pen, Peyton Gray turned in four shutout innings in a pair of 2-inning appearances.

Single-A Columbia Fireflies (29-27)

schedule | roster

Columbia went into the series with first-place Charleston RiverDogs (TBR) trailing by eight games, and unfortunately went just 2-6, creating a 10-game gulf between themselves and the top of the division.

One of those wins was by a score of 20-1, which doesn’t count any extra in the standings but probably feels pretty great in the moment. Right fielder Juan Carlos Negret was responsible for a lot of that offense, driving in 7 that night with a pair of 2-run homers, a bases-loaded walk, and a 2-RBI single.

Utility man Tyler Tolbert claimed a piece of Fireflies history this week:

Darryl Collins used many means to reach base this week: 7 hits, 5 walks, and 4 times hit by a pitch (ouch!). The 19-year-old left fielder is batting .278/.389/.392 on the season.

Right-hander Matt Stil turned 21 on Monday, and on Wednesday turned in his best pitching performance of the season. He struck out 7 four no-hit innings, marred only by a leadoff walk - and that runner was immediately caught stealing second.

Three great performances out of the bullpen:

  • Lefty Patrick Smith pitched twice, each time turning in two scoreless innings. He plunked a batter and allowed a double, but otherwise left the bases empty.
  • Right-hander Nathan Webb struck out 7 in a no-hit outing that went 3.1 innings, coming on with two outs in the 9th and then dominating in the 10th, 11th, and 12th innings.
  • LHP Marlin Willis appeared in two games, piling up 11 strikeouts in 5.1 shutout innings. A runner reached on a strikeout and a single was allowed in the first outing, but nobody reached at all in his second game.

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Did you go to any minor league games this week? Who stood out to you? If you were GM for a week, who would you promote - bearing in mind that players can NOT skip Triple-A on the way to the Majors this year?